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Council fears rural tax increase

LAWRENCE GLEASON, GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Rural property tax bills may edge up this year due to the declining oil and gas industrial tax base.
The industrial assessment is declining with the oil and gas industry struggling.
This year may only be the start of an erosion of the industrial sector paying the larger portion of the tax bill for rural municipalities.
About 64.5 per cent of tax revenue received by the MD of Willow Creek comes from industry and linear infrastructure, including pipelines and electrical transmission lines.
The heavy tax load is carried by industry.
Just 11.1 per cent of the rural tax revenue base comes from farmland and 23.5 per cent from residential property tax.
MD of Willow Creek finance director Johanne Hannas told councillors at their March 13 meeting it’s not just the decline in the oil and gas industry.
“In the last few years the province has had discussions on redistributing linear,” Hannas said. “Who is to say we can continue to rely on this funding on an annual basis?”
Hannas showed a comparison of rural tax rates of ten southern Alberta municipalities and the MD of Willow Creek to demonstrate council has kept its residential and farmland tax rates low.
Hannas showed statistics of a farmland and residential tax rate comparison of the counties and municipal districts of Willow Creek, Newell, Pincher Creek, Taber, Warner, Vulcan, 40 Mile, Cardston, Wheatland, and Lethbridge.
The MD of Willow Creek has the second lowest farmland tax with the County of Newell having the lowest.
The County of Newell is unique in relying heavily on its nonresidential assessment base with 87 per cent of its tax base coming from industry, including oil and gas.
Wheatland County had 78 per cent of its tax revenue coming in from industry including oil and gas.
MD of Willow Creek councillors are concerned if industry in Alberta keeps taking a hit rural municipalities will be forced to increase farmland and residential property taxes to make up the shortfall.
“We have kept our farmland and residential tax base very tight together,” chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said. “We have not dipped into that well.”
Councillors were told that may change beginning this budget year with a budget expected to be presented to council the first week of May.

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